I just received a letter from my friend, attorney John Lackey.
John had read some of the articles I wrote about my childhood adventures in the 1930s and 1940s, and he wanted to share some of his.
I think they are certainly worth repeating.
John, his sister, Jessie, his mother, Florence, and father, Jim, lived at 449 Oak Street on the corner of Oak and High. This was one of those simply splendid places for kids to spend early years.
In the three-street radius of Oak, Breck Avenue and High Street, lived the families of two mayors, the sitting circuit judge and a later circuit judge, the commonwealth attorney, a city councilman, a school board chairman, the police judge, the Baptist minister, the Christian Church Minister, the primary owner of the Begley Drug Company, three medical doctors, the dean of students at EKU, a professor of history at EKU and the rest of us, who struggled to pay for groceries, mortgage, and the automobile each month.
John once counted that in that three-street radius, plus Langford Court, there were 30 young people within five years of his age who he grew up fighting, dating, playing kick the can and capture the flag with on summer nights, and tying the mayor's daughter to the maple tree in the front yard. (She missed her piano lesson).
Richmond was itself a spectacular place for kids to grow. We remember things that we were in to as sub-teens and teens, which was practically everything.
With one notable exception, there was no vandalism and no theft.
EKU's President W.F. O'Donnell had a grandson who ran with us during the summer months while he lived with his grandparents. This gave comfortable cover for us guys when we explored empty hallways and classrooms at EKU on summer evenings -- not that we held back in other months of the year.
As a middle schooler, I remember we learned to leave a book propped in the door jamb of a back entrance way of a building we wished to enter on Saturday afternoon or Sunday. We began with the Coates Administration Building.
John remembers that there was a catwalk about 3 feet wide, some 20 feet above the stage at the Coates auditorium that a couple of his buddies walked across. John with his club feet avoided that climb, but he was certainly a leader in the hide-and-seek games in the dressing rooms and the balcony of Coates.
Later, there were excursions into the University Building on weekends.
The University Building is the old Model High School in the center of the campus, which is now part of the University Library. There was an iron fire escape on the back side building. At the top of the fire escape, one could slip a book under the window and secure entrance on weekends.
On the top floor of the University Building we discovered a trap door leading to the widow's walk on the top of the building. Naturally, we were up there quickly, using a ladder found in a maintenance closet.
At that time, the University Building was second in height only to the Keene Johnson building. On warm spring afternoons we could look down on the top of Burnam Hall where co-eds were sunbathing.
After this, there was a thorough exploration of the Weaver Health Building. Model students had ID's identical to full-time college students. We used them to attend sports events and to shoot hoops in Weaver Gym, which was then the venue for men's basketball.
We discovered a trap door above the press box in Weaver arena. This trap door led to the roof of the where one could climb out and walk on the flat roof to the opposite side. There was need to climb four or five-foot dividers, but that did not deter us.
As you look at the Weaver Building today, on its left side were the offices of Coach McBrayer and the ROTC commandant. There was a trap door on the left side that matched the one above the press box. This trap door opened above Coach McBrayer's desk.
I remember several times we crossed the Weaver Health Building from the press box, carefully replacing its trap door, and dropping down onto Coach McBrayer's desk, and slipping out the back.
John was one of some five boys in this group. He could name the others, most of whom are still with us.
Somehow we avoided juvenile court. There was one 'sort of' when a professor's son and John whitewashed their girlfriends names on the sidewalk in front of Weaver. I recall no other act of destruction of property.
When Principal Coates learned that the professor's son and I were the two, we got a severe chewing out. We promised to clean the place up. But we soon learned that the whitewash did not come off.
University maintenance ended up doing the job.
"Snake hunting" was both a thing that we did as young persons and a place where we went.
In the middle of the square surrounded by Lancaster Avenue, Breck Avenue, High Street and Oak Street was a wild undeveloped area. This area began at the back of the McGees' house and the back of the Simmons' house. It included virtually all of the middle part of the block.
A storm sewer still runs through it, where it is not now covered with asphalt. This area grew horse weeds 8 to 9-feet-tall with diameter of an inch and a half.
It was truly wild.
It was the place where we built our fort. At the bottom of Oak Street was the home of the McGees. At the rear of their backyard began property owned by the Simmons, Luxons and Willoughbys. At the very back of their property was the location of our fort. (We believed everybody's backyard belonged to every kid).
Another family lived across the fence at the extreme back of what is now Lancaster Court. The family was the Durbins, but we remember them as the "Snakehunting Girls." As I recall, there were three daughters.
My mother and Donald Dykes' mother, Marian, got great laughs out of the term "going snakehunting" or visiting the "snakehunting girls."
After reading this all I can say is wow! You all were more adventurous than we were.
Thanks a lot.
The one who lacks the courage to start has already finished.
Until next time ... live, love, laugh and learn, Glenmore
Glenmore Jones is a Richmond native, World War II veteran, EKU graduate, entrepreneur, has written Golf News and historical articles for the Richmond Register for 23 years, loves life and adventurous things.